You sold out, not Mandela!

July 18, 2012 § 29 Comments

Originally appeared on my column on 2012-01-13 08:00

People like to say that Nelson Mandela is a sell-out. That he sold black people down the river. That he lived a cushy life in prison. That he turned soft in prison and decided to sell out. That he alone is to blame for the fact that black people are still talking about economic freedom today.

Saying that he sold out demonstrates a lot of people’s ignorance when it comes to the history of the ANC and the negotiation process. By claiming that he “sold out”, this crowd indirectly suggests that there was no ANC without him; that Mandela, in a miracle to rival the virgin birth, singlehandedly negotiated a free and democratic South Africa by himself. According to this heretical thinking, in the beginning was Mandela and the ANC. Through him all things were negotiated; without him, nothing that was negotiated was negotiated. These haters of Nelson Mandela do not realise that they have turned the man from a him into a Him. God. He is no God. As he said on the day of his release, “I am your servant, I am not your messiah and I am not your saviour.”

Often, those who want to raise him to the level of deity always praise him alone as though there were no other people involved in the peaceful transition. Even Mandela himself has said: “I must not be isolated from the collective who are responsible for the success.”

What about those who blame Mandela for the negotiations? Perhaps a history lesson is in order. Thabo Mbeki led the negotiations for the ANC and his deputy was Jacob Zuma. According to Mark Gevisser’s biography, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred, in the first week of August 1991, while Nelson Mandela was in Cuba, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma were in Cambridge, Cyril Ramaphosa convened the ANC’s National Working Committee (NWC) while the trio were out of the country. In that meeting, Zuma was replaced as head of ANC intelligence by Terror Lekota, “and Mbeki had been replaced as head of negotiations, by Ramaphosa himself”.

Mandela was livid upon hearing that Ramaphosa had Zuma and Mbeki replaced whilst the three of them were outside the country. Joe Slovo had lobbied hard to have Mbeki replaced by Ramaphosa as head of the negotiations team because he believed that “he was going to sell us out”.

If people want to blame someone then, they should blame Joe Slovo’s pick, Ramaphosa. But that would be just as outlandish and insanely ridiculous as blaming Mandela for the lack of economic freedom. How can we start blaming one man? No one worked in isolation. All decisions were made by the ANC’s executive. Only lazy thinking people will blame any single individual for the way things turned out. Blame the ruling party if you want to blame someone – but they had very limited choices.

“When you negotiate, you must be prepared to compromise.” Nelson Mandela.

There are some who say that he was a creation of the ANC. It is true that he was. The prisoners in Robben Island decided that he would be the one to represent their plight. In a PBS interview, Walter Sisulu said that Mandela was the best man to handle the situation.
Sisulu spoke about how the prison warders made the prisoners run when they were working at the quarry. According to Sisulu, one day, Mandela made a decision; it meant a great deal to all the prisoners when he suggested to them that they move slower than they ever had. That changed the situation because the warders didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden, the warders could no longer give them orders; they had to negotiate with them to get things done. That was the moment all the prisoners recognised his leadership.

It was for this reason that the ANC in exile decided to make him the face of the struggle against oppression. On the “creation of the Mandela myth”, Joe Matthews said: “I was one of those who worked out the policy.”

The people who knew him, like Oliver Tambo, held him in high esteem. Adelaide Tambo, Oliver’s wife, spoke about how her husband spoke about Mandela, “When Chief Luthuli was still president of the ANC, Nelson had made a speech – that speech sometimes appears on television…. And Oliver said to me, ‘This is the president of South Africa.’”

If people like Walter Sisulu, who knew Mdiba better than any of us ever will, can speak so glowingly about him, who are we to say some of the things we say about him? If Oliver Tambo, the most revered man in the ANC, could point to Nelson Mandela while Chief Albert Luthuli was still president of the ANC, and call him the president of South Africa who are we to say some of the things we say about him? On Christmas day in exile, Oliver Tambo would leave an empty chair at the head of the table. He would say that chair was for the president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and the other prisoners on Robben Island.

If we want to talk about selling out, then we should be honest. The only people who have sold out is us. The bravest thing we do is open our mouths and blame them while we enjoy the freedom they fought for. They played their part; now fix what you’re complaining about.

They have set a task for us. It is to make things increasingly perfect. As Mandela put it, “Freedom can never be taken for granted. Each generation must safeguard it and extend it. Your parents and elders sacrificed much so that you should have freedom without suffering what they did. Use this precious right to ensure that the darkness of the past never returns.”

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§ 29 Responses to You sold out, not Mandela!

  • Kgaogelo Magolego says:

    I bet all those arm chair critics of Madiba are not just lazy to think but also have low self esteem and are undermining him like this to get attention. They’re insignificant and are in effect discounting the work that everybody else is did to attain this democracy. Next time one of them say Nelson Mandela has sold out we must ask them if they were ready to pick up arms and fight. This kind of jealousy turns me off. While I’m gatvol with the ANC for abusing him and his name to stay in power,I will not tolerate this he “sold out” crap

    • shaun says:

      we were already fighting you idiot,i bet you are some middle class snob,who cause you have a townhouse you think you made it.coward

  • Nthabiseng says:

    Well said. It is high time people stopped complaining and start contributing to SA’s development.

  • Tattooed_Grl says:

    Many people are not per se hating on Mandela because he sold us out- but also for the fact that he continues to hog the spotlight and that all glory of our freedom is thrust upon him. He is not the only one that fought for our freedom- so why not celebrate ALL struggle heros equally? Give them the same amount of “airtime”? It is just not fair on the other power players that Mandela gets all the glory. Yes, they did not fight so they could one day be famous- but come on now…..

    • shaun says:

      I believe he gets all that cause that is what the devil promised him…the reason ppl think illuminate is a joke because ppl who talk about it are treated as if they don’t know what they are talking about,like as if they are crazy…Good and Evil exist and ppl are divided accordingly..amen

  • Tattooed_Grl says:

    Oh and PS if I had to bear arms in order to help SA and its economic freedom- I would gladly lay my life down so that my kids dont have to live in the economic turmoil we as Africans do now!

  • Thobeka Maphalala says:

    I have never enjoyed reading a political article such as this one. Thank you 🙂

  • skhumbuzo says:

    Hai suka wena u have no idea what u talking about! Nxa hamba! What ‘success’ is this? Why should we compromise?????? Let alone “negotiate” were as the land was never ‘negotiated’ out of our hands!!!!!! Where is the land??? They all had the power to turn the situation around for all aspects, ‘freedom’ including land reform! Ungazophapha la! U have no idea how the land was snatched away from us! And we must ‘negotiate’ hai wena! Weren’t they screaming free education? Why there inequalities??????? They had the power to change that! Mara no, they ‘negotiated’

  • Ntokozo Mthembu says:

    Deswasup Khaya!! nnuffsaid 🙂

  • Anthony Poltera says:

    It is all about making a meaningful contribution no matter how great or small, one must do it the best they can! Laziness is endemic in our society since Mandela retired, we need real leaders in the ANC again, any chance you are interested in politics Khaya?

  • Ntombi says:

    unfortunately this thing is bigger than meets the eye and you guys dont see it. mandela did sell us out for his own personal gain which is not freedom. that freedom charter has taken the most important thing which we born with and that is LOVE AND HUMANITY. what is freedom without being yourself and chasing material things. i am not a fan of Mandela not because i am jealous but because i finally see the light.

    • mthura says:

      why d u hate mandela because everything was done by a collective of the ANC all we must do nw as young people z to continue the struggle no t to blame an individual

  • Sphiweyinkosi says:

    Those that conquer wars never enjoy the spoils of the war because they are not wired like that. Those that enjoy them don’t know how to fight in war, they are not soldiers. South African freedom fighters did not fight to loose the battle or for economic freedom, they fought for the key to freedom. Those that enjoy the spoils did not fight, thus their are responsibility is to use the key they have been given to unlock the doors that where locked by the evil which was the old regime.

    South Africans(Black South Africans) are their own worst enemy. I fear that when that eventually dawns in our minds we would have destroyed whatever little we have instead of using it to gain more.

    Thank you Khaya, this the gospel that must be preached to our people, that we have all the freedom that we need to gain the freedom that we want or feel we deserve.

  • atlas world says:

    You are all in denial, we have to face the truth

  • Big compromises were made by the whole team, and since Madiba was the face of the struggle he has also become the face of the supposed selling out. We will never really know what would have happened if they had not compromised…

  • Ayanda says:

    I used to look at the freedom fighters as heroes because I thought what they achieved was miraculous and somehow I knew that this meant my generation has to achieve much more. So I wondered what we could do to achieve greater things because it seemed to me that the greatest was already achieved, until I saw that we are not free economically. So I think that this is our battle whether we were sold out or not, the focus should not be, who sold us out, our future does not lie in the past but the present. I agree with Khaya that Mandela was the face of the struggle and what was achieved was done with a lot of other comrades who are human but what now? Are we defeated? Is it over? They failed us so we must find intellectual ways of pointing fingers. Please, this is not the end of the world, we need to rise up and find solutions and strategies to sort this out. It’s tough but who said it’s supposed to be easy?

  • Xtru says:

    A very important paragraph in your piece Khaya:

    “If we want to talk about selling out, then we should be honest. The only people who have sold out is us. The bravest thing we do is open our mouths and blame them while we enjoy the freedom they fought for. They played their part; now fix what you’re complaining about.”

    Enough said. We all should just grow a pair and carry the baton forward in developing this country further.

    Ours is currently the most expensive passport in Africa… think about that!

  • lucky ngidi says:

    What freedom is Khanya talking about,look around and tell me you really believe that.We are still victims of racial crimes executed by our white fellow South Africans,victims of poverty.I thought the struggle against apartheid regime and imperialist was to liberate all South Africans but it did not,the deal or meetings between Anc executives and National party government,and Harry Oppenheimer was about cutting a deal for few Anc executive members providing that they agreed that the wealth and the Reverse Bank should remain in the hands of the oppressor,now Khanya if that is not selling out I don’t know what it is.The struggle was about political and economic freedom,ensuring we reclaim the land and the mines we we’re robbed of.It seems that our fellow late Mk veterans sacrificed their lifes for Mandela’s so called messaniac status and Noble Peace price that he and his fellow comdrade Tutu won.Perhaps you need a history lessons people did not meet with the Rothchilds and the Oppenhemeirs but Mandela did ensuring that economic power remained in their hands,how dare you say we sold out you make me sick to my stomach,a degree and a laptop does not make you a history expect of this country we are the ones who shed blood for this country,when some of returned from exile we were excluded in the employment plans for Mk veterans we told can’t be employed because we were not in possession of a matric certificate,were betrayed by the very same people who dragged us out of schools to fight with apartheid regime in promise of a better future and economic freedom.We were sold out

  • TinyPhumPhum says:

    Full stop, Nuff sed *Gold Star*

  • TinyPhumPhum says:

    Full stop, nuff said *gold star*

  • khanyi says:

    This is very enlightening. Our Mandelas and Tambos did their part. Its time we did did ours and stopped pointing fingers.

  • khanyi says:

    This is very enlightening. Our Mandelas and Tambos did their part. Its time we did ours and stopped pointing fingers.

  • S'bu says:

    This is so true. My other view or analysis (about why Mandela didn’t sell us out) is that Mandela assumed that after he compromise during the negotiations we would take that ”freedom” and make it big. He assumed we were clever enough to do that. But we just stood and waited for silver platters. A father takes his children to school, but never writes their exams. Mandela put us at the door. Instead of going in, we ran back. Why haven’t we reached economic freedom? Because when the chance presented itself we wanted everything for free instead of grabbing the chances. It gets worse! We fight amongst each other and then there are issues such as xenophobia. When do we get time to walk towards economic freedom when we are so busy with useless things? Leave Mandela alone!

  • Karabo says:

    Well; 1stly where was the Author of this (Events) when all of this was happening?

    The thing is tha we are free; how free are we?

    If we were free, South Africa as a nation should have been operating for 24 hours… Basics like, water, education and bread shouldn’t be a hassle for any individual on this country let alone planet earth…

    People who made those negotiations put their family names 1st… For example if u look @ Soweto and Townships in the Vaal; the infrastructure is so poor in the Vaal… Whatt happened to all the money put forth to houses, schools, clinics, recreational facilities and roads. This democracy thing is selective… The richer get rich and the poorer get poorer… How many millionairs do we have? How many of them earned it, how many worked for it and how many of them inherited it… Some most probably stole it… If every individual in RSA had a presidential account as a form of thanksgiving or giving back to the poor communities… A lot would change… I tell you this: change is near… The ruling party will regret making self beneficial decisions rather nation building decisions… Born in 86. I Love Madiba although if you look @ some events before major events you will reconsider… This is the super modern world where anything is possible and most are gullible in every aspect… Media should educate and not mislead…

  • Ephraimse says:

    How much did ANC give you to write this Khanya? If you feel free don’t assume is a common feeling, how do you explain freedom to me on an empty stamach, poor service in my squatter camp? Whether Mandela or someone else or collective did not, but we were sold out that’s a fact enough, you can rescue your idol Mandela but the truth remains, ANC is a face lift of aparthied, they just fronting…the true ANC has died long time ago, check the founding principles of ANC and compare that to current situation? Huge contradiction!!!!

    • the girl next door says:

      Khaya is bullshitting us. Eh dawg. What is politicial freedom, without economic freedom. These things are interlocked, one can’t exist without the other and quite frankly we don’t have economic freedom there we don’t have freedom, still under white supremacy. So we were sold us our!!!!

  • Albertinah says:

    Those are YOuR own opinions and it is much too disappointing that you mention such negative things about Ramaposa and that you brought in people who’ve passed on and can’t really speak for themselves, you’ve spoken so well about madiba but why bring in other people sbali?? The other thing is if you could be neutral you would see where we are coming from, but as I said THESE are your opinions,

    #PS Did you really just wake up and decide to trash Ramaposa so that fast forward to 2013 when he’s deputy we would see him as unfit?

  • the girl next door says:

    What was needed was a revolution, not a compromise. And as such we were sold out. You are a middle class South African who is not feeling the struggle that is still faced by black South Africa. As the president of the ANC back then, he was the leader and he (Mandela) and his homies sold us out, for political freedom just so we can vote, but not economic freedom. You say we sold us out how? How have we sold us out? When the wealth of this country does not belong to us, when development is not groomed into black South African’s. How have we sold us out? When people are still hungry, poor, having in poverty?? How have we then sold ourselves out? Where is the fairness? I’ll tell you who sold us out Mandela and the ANC, they sold us out because they compromised, compromised on the very struggle they fought against for years..

    A revolution was needed, a revolution is still needed. Therefore the struggle should continue.

  • shamplyne says:

    What you fail to see here, and what the article fails to mention in its attempt to brown-nose whites like Mandela did, is that there were negotiations BEFORE the ANC was un-banned (and which were held with Madiba alone, as he states in LWTF), and there were negotiations with the ANC after its un-banning. The “lazy” person referred to here is the one smart enough to question why Economic Freedom was not discussed, as if neither of the negotiating parties knew of the countries natural economic resources??

    Economic Freedom is not about getting a job, buying a townhouse in the suburb and having an expensive German car – it is rather about the country not crippling its citizens to poverty while mines and banks are owned by foreign national companies. Botswana has a 50/50 venture with De Beers Trading company, yet in SA, DBTC runs a wholly-owned operation?? How so?? Why does Anglo American own 7 of the companies top mines, and generate billions of dollars of dollars in profits every year??

    Wakey-wakey South African.


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